Alabama and Auburn meet Saturday in the first Iron Bowl in more than a decade without affecting the SEC championship. LSU has already secured the SEC West title, and the door seems to be closed for both teams in the playoffs – certainly for a 5-6 Auburn team and more than likely for an 8th-ranked Alabama team, but two losses and no more has chances for a ranked victory.
But Auburn has some to play in the latest version of the rivalry game. The recent leadership of the former Tigers star, who is returning Carnell “Cadillac” Williams as interim head coach — Williams took over after Auburn fired Bryan Harsin on Halloween — has given the program an angry victory in Tuscaloosa without achieving bowl eligibility . Williams has been up 2-1 since taking over with wins over Texas A&M and Western Kentucky and a narrow 39-33 loss to Mississippi State.
SEC Network host Paul Finebaum says the 2022 Iron Bowl would be all but irrelevant if it weren’t for the storyline of Williams, who could be a candidate for the full-time job when Auburn managers watch the Crimson Tide on Saturday shock.
“Carnell Williams saved the Iron Bowl” Finebaum said further on Monday McElroy and Cubelic in the morning at WJOX in Birmingham. “This is a game that honestly not many people were looking forward to. Look, I don’t want to rain on the Iron Bowl parade…that looked like one of the worst Iron Bowls in modern history. But what Carnell did – he gave it a purpose. I feel the same as a week ago. I think he showed that he exceeded all possible expectations. I repeat once again that I think he should be given serious consideration as a legitimation for this job… Also, it really annoys me when people say, ‘I hope he gets taken on by the next workforce.’ That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about getting a fair shot at the job, not a wink and a nod that says, ‘Carnell, you did a great job and will certainly ask the new coach to secure you a spot.'”
Williams, a star for Auburn as a running back during the program’s 13-0 campaign in 2004, was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ No. 5 pick overall in the 2005 NFL Draft Coach Gus Malzahn hired as Tigers running backs coach. Two coaching firings later at Auburn, he’s at least put himself in a position to have the temporary tag removed, though Williams says he doesn’t bother much.
“I didn’t have time to think about it,” Williams said of Auburn Undercover’s Phillip Marshall. “I’ve always lived my life in the present. I’m kind of in the mindset that I’m not worried about what’s next. My now takes care of what comes next. At the moment I am. I enjoyed it. One thing I don’t do is let my position dictate my ministry. Whether I’m the head coach or a positional coach, whatever, I really feel like I was put on this earth to serve, give back and pour myself into people’s lives. It doesn’t matter if I’m the head coach or the running backs coach or something else.”
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Alabama and Auburn go head-to-head Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT, with the game airing on CBS.